Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wizardry, Hells Bells, and a Talking Skull: What More Could Go Wrong?

Wizard-For-Hire, Harry Dresden.
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Harry Dresden usually gets into deep trouble.  Whether it's with trolls, vampires (of four different courts, but all of the same opinion that he needs to die), fairies, thugs, wizards, women, or his know-it-all talking spirit skull, wizard-for-hire has a knack for getting in way too deep with people (or things) that can kill him.  And, hells bells, he would not change it for anything.  The leather duster wearing and gun toting Dresden is sarcastic, handsome, intelligent, and talented, with a white and black sense of good and bad, a strict moral code, and a devil-may-care attitude which helps and hinders him.  Oh, and he mainly uses spells, a blasting rod, totems for protection, and fights Chicago's, the city he loves, underworld monsters, supernatural and human.  The wizard is the creation of American author, Jim Butcher, and debuted in 2000's Storm Front.  Fourteen more books later, Harry's in for at least five more books, according to Butcher; the ever-growing Dresden fan base has devotedly read the books and watched the short-lived Sci-Fi Channel show for 16 years now and continues to be obsessed with the man who is often described as the "grown-up Harry Potter."

The Dresden Files series can best be described as wry, sarcastic, utterly hilarious, heart-breakingly sad, intriguing, and exciting... yes, all of these.  The series traces several over-arching story lines while simultaneously following one book only story lines.  Dresden himself is the catalyst for several of these story lines; his talent and power become the focus of several groups, none of which are too friendly towards Dresden.  On the flip side, he is the impetus for good in the city, trying desperately to stay ahead of the powers of evil that threaten to overtake Chicago and harm those that Dresden loves.  Butcher writes Dresden in a way that he is under-whelmingly human, despite his magical abilities. The character is extremely self-aware, leading the hilarious inner dialogues about his talent, his failings, and what the hell is he going to do next; aka, every person on Earth's regular inner dialogue.  Dresden is that sexy, lovable man your mother warns you about and your father thinks is awesome; Dresden's character alone makes the novels worth reading.

However, the writing is also noteworthy.  It is not whimsical like most fantasy/sci-fi/magic series. Butcher instead weaves a world where the supernatural simmers barely below the surface and although there are the groupies that want to be supernatural, the regular people force themselves to ignore the weird happenings around them.  Butcher manages to create an entire world of weird and unknown. Although Dresden has great power and glowing talents, he knows that he cannot succeed (or at least scrape by by the skin of his teeth) without help from others.  This is where Butcher's fantastic cast of side characters comes in; magic and supernatural powers are mere cliche lagniappe when compared to the interweaving, repeating characters that love and hate Harry Dresden. Archangels, vampires, fairies, werewolves, and cops all come in and out of Harry's life to help him when desperate times call or just to be present when needed. This is definitely a women-rock series, with strong female characters that Dresden relies on for support, intelligence, and to save his life regularly.  Dresden acknowledges that he would be nothing without the women in life and that he is also constantly running from equally strong women out to kill him.

Author Jim Butcher
This is not your typical series.  When researching it, one struggles to find a consistent genre classification for it.  Horror (fight scenes, gore scenes, and the monsters are pretty intense), sci-fi (magic and supernatural), fantasy (magic and a tall, dark, handsome man with outstanding morals), romance (see above), and mystery (Dresden is a wizard for hire to solve mysteries, not to brew love potions) can all be applied.  However, whatever you read and whatever you call it, Harry Dresden is definitely the man for you.  This series is not to be missed.  It is campy at times, and it hilarious at times, but Jim Butcher masterfully weaves in the underlying story of the struggle between good and evil.  This is the ultimate enthralling series to read; you'll zip through it in no time and be left with the rest of the fans, waiting for Peace Talks, the 16th book, due May 10, 2016. 

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